The Ethics of Rights, Gender, and Global Justice: East and West
General Catalog Course Title:
Topics in Religious Studies
Terms Offered:
Spring 2011


The course focuses on major founding insights, principles and practical explication of  the ethics of rights and ideas on justice, both in Western and Eastern traditions and in-between (Hellenistic, Indian, Chinese, South-east Asia, Postcolonial). In  part the course examines the foundational theories in morality for cultural values, religious beliefs and practices, law, justice and human rights, and ecological attitudes, as these have developed from classical to contemporary times.  Following a survey of key Western moral systems, including ideas of justice and liberalism, and their critiques (Kant, Mills, Williams, Cavell, Nussbaum, Sen),  the course critically engages Hindu, Buddhist-Jaina (Dharma) ethics, and their responses to the subcontinent’s moral, social and legal challenges.  Similar issues are examined in the context of the dynastic and Confucian vs Daoist debates in Chinese texts. In terms of structure, the theoretical part of the course will map the formative impact of competing ethical theories that have determined the culture, or have in turn been criticized and transformed in their respective intellectual histories.  The latter part will center on practical moral issues, particularly the dialectics of caste/class hierarchy versus autonomy of the individual, despotic governance vs democratic/liberal processes, rights trumping rites (duties), patriarchy vs gender justice, virtues vs instrumentalism, normativity vs intuition, as well as bioethical, animal and environmental issues.  How the cultures of East & West, comparatively,  have meet these challenges amidst diversity and plurality of communities, moral ideals, legal systems and practices is a question that will also inform the inquiry.


For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.